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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 05:12 GMT
Colin Cowdrey: A cricketing gentleman

Colin Cowdrey's career spanned two distinct eras of the game
Michael Colin Cowdrey - even his initials were steeped in cricket - lit up the summer game for three decades.

Dazzling stroke play, aided by seemingly effortless timing, brought him 107 centuries as he set new records for English Test batsmen.

He was born in 1932 in Bangalore, India, where his parents owned a tea plantation, and played his first cricket on a pitch cut out of the jungle.

The young Colin Cowdrey in India
The young Colin Cowdrey in India
He was educated at Tonbridge public school in England where he is still considered the most brilliant all rounder in the school's history.

Not only did Colin Cowdrey make the First Eleven to play against Clifton at Lord's aged just 13, he also distinguished himself at rugby union, tennis and squash.

His precocious talent was acknowledged by Kent County Cricket Club in 1950 and, a year later, he became the county's youngest cap at the age of 17.

His sons, Graham and Christopher, also played for the county.

After studying at Oxford, where he won a rackets blue in his first term and went on to captain the University cricket team, Colin Cowdrey was picked for England's 1954-55 tour of Australia.

  Colin Cowdrey's Record
114 Tests
42719 career runs
107 centuries
638 catches
Only player to score 100 against all other Test sides

He established himself as a world class batsman and among his swashbuckling achievements for England was a partnership of 411 with Peter May against the West Indies in 1957.

When May resigned the England captaincy in 1959, Cowdrey took over. He was England skipper, on and off, for the next 10 years.

Colin Cowdrey walking out to bat with Peter May
He succeeded Peter May (left) to the England captaincy
In 1962, his 307 against Victoria became the highest score for an MCC player in Australia.

The following year's Lord's Test witnessed one of the most memorable moments in the game's illustrious history when, after having had his arm broken by Wes Hall, Colin Cowdrey came in, arm in plaster, to play out the final moments of the match.

In the field Colin Cowdrey was, by his own admission, no athlete, but he was an exceptional slip catcher, with hands like buckets. And he enjoyed nothing more than the occasional practical joke.

During one match, he confused his fielding colleagues and the umpires by quickly pocketing the ball after catching it, leading to an amusing, if futile, search.

Colin Cowdrey's hundredth century came against Surrey at Maidstone in 1973.

It says much for both his ability and standing in the game that, in the following year, when he was flown out to Australia at the age of 42 to face Lillee and Thompson at their fastest, it was at the unanimous wish of the England team.

Colin Cowdrey walking to the crease with his left arm in plaster
He saw out the end of the 1963 Lord's Test with his broken arm in plaster
In domestic cricket, Colin Cowdrey led Kent to its first County Championship for 57 years before retiring in 1976 to become a respected administrator.

He was President of the MCC and Chairman of the International Cricket Conference which, under his auspices, undertook a radical restructuring of the game, introducing a code of conduct for players and match referees.

Though he captained England on 23 occasions, he never achieved his ambition of leading the side in Australia: four times he was vice-captain.

Colin Cowdrey's cricketing career spanned two distinct cricketing eras, from the supremacy of batting giants like Len Hutton to the heyday of fast bowling and the introduction of high-profile sponsorship and limited-overs matches.

A prominent member of the Conservative Party, he counted at least one Prime Minister, John Major, as a close friend. Indeed, it was Major who made him Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge in 1997.

Softly spoken and unfailingly courteous to everyone he met, he will be remembered as an outstanding cricketer, a thoughtful administrator and one of the game's true gentlemen.

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